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Feds Blast Ariz. Sheriff Arpaio, Saying He Fueled Widespread Discrimination Against Latinos

Posted Dec 15, 2011 6:32 PM CDT
By Rachel M. Zahorsky

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The U.S. Department of Justice accused Arizona’s Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office on Thursday of sweeping racial profiling against Hispanics during traffic stops, immigration proceedings and in county jails.

The 22-page report follows more than three years of federal investigations, including reviews of thousands of pages of documents and more than 200 interviews with sheriff’s personnel and former jail inmates and detailed a web of unconstitutional activity, reports the Arizona Republic, the New York Times and Fox News.

“MCSO is broken in a number of critical respects,” Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez said of the department headed by Sheriff Joe Arpaio, known for his immigration crackdowns, for nearly 20 years. While Perez singled out Arpaio for breeding a “culture of disregard for the constitution,” he also appealed to the sheriff’s office to voluntarily cooperate with federal officials to address the problems and help to heal the community, according to the Arizona Republic.

While the sheriff’s office has until Jan. 4 to decide whether to come to a voluntary court-enforceable agreement to stop the unlawful practices—or face a civil action to force compliance with federal law—the Department of Homeland Security swiftly terminated the sheriff’s authority to conduct immigration screenings in jails within hours of the announcement. Secretary Janet Napolitano also announced, according to multiple media outlets, the restriction of the sheriff’s office's use of the Secure Committees program, which uses fingerprints collected in local jails to identify undocumented immigrants.

The sheriff’s office, which received the findings Thursday morning, has yet to respond to the allegations; however, Sheriff’s Deputy Chief Jack MacIntyre derided the decision to release the report to the press before Arpaio’s office could respond to the letter sent by Perez that detailed widespread patterns of unconstitutional practices against Latinos and retaliation against those who complained about those practices, the Republic reports.

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